Hunter  Lewis

Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) exemplifies the confused Republican of today. He grasps that current monetary policy favors endless expansion of government control over the economy, with huge pay-offs to Wall Street and other special interests along the way, but falls for the circular argument that Fed members are “well qualified” precisely because they come from Keynesian university economics departments, government, or Wall Street.

In retrospect, there was something notable about George W. Bush’s last three appointees to the Fed board—the ones that were blocked by the Democrats. None of them had advanced degrees in economics. This was a throw-back to the old days when Fed appointees were rarely academic economists, but a sharp departure from current practice, when most are.

Respected financial writer Jim Grant jokes that today’s Fed has replaced the gold standard with the “Phd standard.” The problem, of course, is not Phds, but the economics departments they are coming from, and the lack of common sense in those departments. The Phd standard has given us the likes of the last Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke, who bet the future of the US and indeed the world on a completely unproven and untested economic theory while literally smirking at those few unintimidated souls who, like Congressman Ron Paul, dared question him.

President Obama has now given us three more nominees to the Fed and the Senate has had a chance to interview them. The first and most important is Stanley Fischer, aged 70, nominee for vice chairman as well as a regular member.

The most curious thing about Fischer’s resume is that, having been born in Zambia, and naturalized as an American in 1976, he accepted Israeli citizenship in 2005 in order to become head of Israel’s central bank. Today he holds dual citizenship. Prior to living in Israel, he worked as a vice chairman of Citigroup from 2002-5, the years leading to the bank’s bail-out, and prior to that was deputy director of the International Monetary Fund, chief economist of the World Bank, and professor at MIT, where he taught Ben Bernanke among others. Somewhere along the way, he acquired a personal fortune of between $14 and $56mm.

We are thus to understand that President Obama, having searched the entire length and breadth of our land, could find nobody better than a 70 year old with Wall St. and International Monetary Fund baggage who had most recently worked for a foreign government.

The second nominee after Fischer is Lael Brainard, who has recently worked at the Treasury as an undersecretary. Ms. Brainard told senators that the Fed should protect “the savings of retirees.” She did not bother to explain how refusing to allow interest to be paid on savings, or seeking to foster inflation higher than interest would do so.

The final nominee, Jerome Powell, would be a reappointment. Although not a Phd economist and nominally a Republican from the George H. W. Bush administration, he fits the Obama mold in other ways, notably by being from Wall Street, and by being willing to keep quiet and go along. His most daring moment came when he called the Fed’s money creation machine under Bernanke and now under Janet Yellen “innovative and unconventional” and added that “likely benefits may be accompanied by costs and risks.” He has been a reliable vote for Bernanke and likely will be for the Yellen/Fischer regime as well.

Senator Corker waxed enthusiastic about this group of three, saying “I’m impressed,” and leading bond manager Mohamed El-Erian describes them as a “dream team” together with Yellen.

This does indeed seem to be a “dream team” for Wall Street, for corporations boosting profits to record levels with the help of government deficits, for other special interests feeding off the stimulus trough, and for government employees. For everyone else, it just promises more and eventually even worse economic misery.

Read more at Against Crony Capitalism.org


Hunter Lewis

Hunter Lewis is co-founder of AgainstCronyCapitalism.org.